BY BERDJ KARAPETIAN
On Sunday, March 7, I attended the 43rd Assembly District Candidate Forum organized by the Unified Young Armenians at the Glendale Public Library.
I was hoping to see the candidates on the same stage debate the issues and explain why we should vote for them.
Seated on stage were three candidates Chahe Keuroghelian— a Democrat, Nayiri Nahabedian— a Democrat, and Sunder Ramani— a Republican. Mike Gatto— the third Democrat, was absent.
As I watched the candidates answer questions from the moderator, my frustration grew more and more. I kept asking myself “What’s wrong with this picture?” Then I realized, Mr. Gatto was absent. That’s what was wrong with this picture.
By his absence, Mr. Gatto was inviting greater attention to the two Armenian candidates. Why not? They are the other two candidates seeking the nomination of the Democrats. Mr. Ramani is the only Republican vying to be the Republican nominee for the June 8 run-off.
I know. I know. The April 13 election is a special election. The probability of any candidate winning more than 50% of the votes is slim to none. Therefore, I believe it will be decided on June 8 in a run-off between the candidates with the highest votes representing the Democratic Party and the Republican Party (the Libertarian Party candidate and another Democratic candidate have withdrawn from the race).
As I stated in an earlier article, our opposition has learned that the easiest way to prevent our community from gaining more influence and electing an Armenian-American in Glendale (and its surrounding areas) is by dividing our votes among two, or more, Armenian-American candidates.
By dividing the Armenian voting bloc, the third candidate and his handlers dilute our community’s importance and our ability to influence the outcome of elections.
Will our community be able to overcome this sinister manipulation by our competitors? Will our opponents in Ankara rejoice that Armenians our losing sight of the big picture by being distracted over which non-electable Armenian-American should receive their votes?
The importance of the 43rd Assembly District race is much greater than what the Assembly member can do for us as a state legislator. It is about demonstrating to our competitors in Glendale and our opponents in Ankara that we are sophisticated voters who will put aside our internal differences for the sake of Hai Tahd.
We can demonstrate our sophistication by rallying our support behind the candidate with the best chance of winning. In so doing, we are not saying that the other Armenian-American is not a good person or we disagree with his views on issues. We are saying that our national interests supersede our personal ones. This is especially true in the race for the 43rd Assembly District previously held by now Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian.
Before writing this piece, I tried to collect some information on how Nayiri Nahabedian and Chahe Keuroghelian are doing with securing endorsements, raising funds, and getting their message to non-Armenian voters— all key measures of potential success in any election.
According to the California Secretary of State website, Nayiri Nahabedian has filed her report for the period ending on February 27, 2010 showing that she has raised more than $143,000. Mike Gatto reports having raised $160,000 in the same period and another $220,000 in 2009. Chahe Keuroghelian, on the other hand, has not filed an electronic report on how much he has received in contributions.
Nayiri Nahabedian has announced support from an impressive array of non-Armenians, including several elected officials, and influential organizations representing local labor unions, teachers, health care workers, professionals, peace officers, students, and women. Oh, yes. She also has the support of many prominent Armenians including the political factions of the ARF (Dashnaktzootiun) and ADL (Ramgavar Party). Chahe Keuroghelian has no website. It does not appear that he has any support from non-Armenian groups or officials.
Non-Armenian and Armenian registered voters have received several different mail pieces from Nayiri Nahabedian including an absentee ballot request form. Nayiri has been addressing and visiting non-Armenian voters and neighborhood organizations. Chahe Keuroghelian has limited his voter outreach to appearing on Armenian language paid television programs primarily in Glendale and Burbank. He also has motivated Armenian volunteers contacting Armenian registered voters. Remember, the district includes residents of North Hollywood, Van Nuys, Toluca Lake, Silver Lake, Valley Glen, and Atwater.
This election will not be won by Armenian votes alone. It can only be won by a candidate withd appeal to a broad group of Armenian as well as non-Armenian voters. Unfortunately, Chahe Keuroghelian appears to have very little, if any, support from the non-Armenian community. The most honorable thing he can do is suspend his candidacy and urge his supporters to vote for Nayiri. Thus, he will help unify our community behind one candidate and help us win on April 13.
That’s what can be right about this picture.